All Hail King of Cardio

Toning muscles and burning calories in as little as four minutes? Yes, it’s possible. This HIIT workout is fast and fun, and you can tailor it to your fitness level.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) sounds like a concept spawned from the cold, calculating minds that brought you Ivan Drago’s gym, situated behind the Iron Curtain of icy Soviet Russia. Rocky references aside, this form of training provides unparalleled results and efficiency.

HIIT is too legit to quit

Why HIIT? Studies have shown that low volume, high intensity interval training is far more effective at stimulating cardiovascular and muscular improvements than high volume, moderate intensity training.

What this means for you: less time in the gym and more results for your money. Plus, HIIT has even further reaching health implications. Exercisers who perform regular HIIT workouts have faster blood pressure recovery rates than those who perform moderate intensity cardio.

As further proof, one test group of prediabetic seniors was put on a HIIT treadmill program, which had participants train three times per week. After 16 weeks, 46 percent of subjects doing the HIIT workout no longer met the criteria for prediabetes, compared to 37 percent of those who did sustained moderate intensity workouts.

If that’s not enough, a Montreal study indicates that high intensity workouts may elevate cognition. A group of obese, middle-aged individuals were put through a series of cognitive tests. Interestingly, those who participated in the HIIT program produced significantly better scores.

HIIT the gym (or your home)

Now that you know why you should do HIIT, try the following safe and effective exercises in the gym or at home. You can use these exercises for any of the interval training methods detailed in the “3 Leading Types of HIIT” sidebar. Keep in mind that a thorough warm-up—for example, five minutes of dynamic stretching or light jogging—is critical before every HIIT workout.

3 leading types of HIIT

1. Tabata
  • Total workout time: 4 minutes
  • Intervals: 20 seconds of high intensity followed by 10 seconds of low intensity
  • Number of rounds: 8
  • Recommended frequency: 2 to 4 times per week

Tabata is ideal for exercisers who have a base level of fitness and are looking for a workout that requires as little time as possible.

2. Gibala Regimen or Little Method
  • Total workout time: 27 minutes
  • Intervals: 60 seconds of high intensity followed by 75 seconds of low intensity
  • Number of rounds: 12
  • Recommended frequency: up to 3 times per week

This method is for exercisers with a moderate level of fitness.

3. Turbulence Training
  • Total workout time: up to 45 minutes
  • Intervals: 8-rep weight training set followed by 1-minute high intensity cardio set
  • Recommended frequency: 3 times per week

This type of training, which combines high-weight and low-rep strength training with high intensity cardio, is ideal for exercisers with a high level of fitness.

Spiderman Push-Ups

Muscles targeted: chest, triceps, deltoids, core

  • Begin in a push-up position: hands on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder width, and legs extended straight behind you.
  • Bring your left leg forward so that your knee almost touches your elbow; rest the inside edge of your left foot on the ground.
  • At the same time, lift your right hand off the floor and place it on the ground about 12 in (30 cm) in front of its original position.
  • Allow your chest and hips to sink toward the floor, coming as close to the ground as possible.
  • Just before touching the ground, push yourself up by extending both arms.
  • Return your arm and leg to the starting position.
  • Complete with the other arm and leg.

Make it easier

Beginners may want to perform this exercise from their knees rather than their feet.


Speed Skater Lunges

Muscles targeted: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves

  • Begin standing on your left foot, with toes pointed forward.
  • Cross your right leg behind your body, extending out to your left side.
  • Keeping a tall upper body and even foot pressure, bend your left knee as low as it can go without your heel lifting.
  • Jump sideways as far as you can, landing on your right foot to absorb the impact.
  • Perform the same motion with your right leg, jumping to your left side.

Make it easier

This exercise is typically done without pause. But if you want less intensity, step sideways instead of jumping.


Scorpion Reach and Touch

Muscles targeted: abs, obliques, deltoids, quadratus lumborum (lower back muscle)

  • Start in push-up position.
  • Keeping both hands on the ground, lift your right leg by raising your heel toward the ceiling.
  • At the same time, open up your hips to the ceiling, allowing your leg to rotate all the way around so that you can place your foot flat on the ground.
  • As your foot touches the ground (or just before), raise your right hand straight above you.
  • Shift your weight into your right foot, and then, keeping your left leg as straight as possible, carefully lift your left foot as high as possible.
  • Reach across your body with your right arm, touching as close to your toe as possible.
  • Return your left leg to the ground and shift your weight back onto it.
  • Return your right hand to the floor.
  • Shift your weight into your left foot to swivel your right leg and hips back toward the ground.
  • Return your foot to the floor.

A word of caution

To safely incorporate HIIT into your routine, you should know proper form for any exercises you complete. Never sacrifice form and safety for speed and increased weight. While you may want to jump right in without pause, listen to your body. If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, take a break until the feeling passes. Given the high intensity of these workouts, be sure to stay well hydrated.


Reverse High-Low Hulk-Out Flies

Muscles targeted: deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius, erector spinae (back muscles)

  • Loop a resistance band around a solid object, roughly waist to chest height.
  • Facing the band, grasp the handles, with your arms outstretched in front of your chest.
  • With a slight bend in your elbows, retract both arms.
  • Ensure that your left hand ends up just above hip height and your right hand ends up at head height; both palms should be facing forward.
  • Return your arms to starting position, and then perform with opposite hand positions.

Cross-Body Mountain Climbers

Muscles targeted: abs, obliques, deltoids

  • Start in push-up position, with arms slightly wider than usual.
  • Lift your left foot off the floor and drive your knee forward, toward your right shoulder.
  • As you do so, slightly twist to the right with your hips.
  • Lower your foot, and then complete the same motion with your right leg.

Make it harder

To increase the difficulty (and the cardiovascular benefits), complete this exercise at a running pace.

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